MaKey MaKey: an invention kit for everyone

makey makeyWhen the lady at the Kid Inventors Day invited us to make music using a keyboard of bananas, Mr 6 and I were more than intrigued. Sure enough as we touched each of the six bananas, to our joyful surprise musical notes played through the nearby laptop. The magic making this fun possible was the brilliantly simple little electronics kit MaKey MaKey. We had to find out more!

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MaKey MaKey is a well-priced invention kit that enables you to connect your computer to your environment in any way that electricity and your imagination allow. Simply connect the mini circuit board to your computer with a USB cable and attach the crocodile clips to conductive objects of your choice. Connect yourself to the circuit board with the earth cable, choose your online app or game and off you go! It’s appealingly simple to set up and whilst Mr 6 had no problems getting going the kit is great for older tinker and maker kids (and adults) as well. It’s the brainchild of two students from MIT’s Media Lab, Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum, who believe that:

“… everyone is creative, inventive, and imaginative. We believe that everyone can create the future and change the world. So we have dedicated our lives to making easy-to-use invention kits”.

Any object capable of conducting a tiny amount of electricity can be used with the kit to send signals to your computer – the potassium in the bananas is more than enough to bring to life an online piano app.

The graphite in a pencil will allow you to draw your own controller on paper so your pictures can make music or play games – just like our alien keyboard above. Mr 6 soon learnt that the darkest areas worked the best as they had the most graphite in them to conduct, so darkened the drawings where needed. Be sure to draw thick lines to the edge of the paper so you can make a solid connection with the alligator clip and don’t cross lines over each other. Check out this intro video for heaps of clever ideas:

The MaKey MaKey Classic Set we played with at home  (a perfectly timed birthday present from Nana) contained a MaKey MaKey circuit board, alligator clips, a mini-USB cable, six connector wires, instructions and twenty stickers. After logging on to the MaKey MaKey site we chose the keyboard from the list of online apps, hooked up our unit to the computer and Mr 6 was soon trying to play music via the conductive powers of lemons, kiwi fruit, leaves and paper with varying degrees of success. Cue lots of chat about conductive properties. He was enthralled and soon demonstrating it to any hapless visitor that passed our way. Soon he took it to school where they played with it during his music class.

A smaller version of the classic kit is also available called MaKey MaKey Go:

The beauty of MaKey MaKey is that it opens up the imagination; there are literally endless ways to connect your computer to your environment. The instructions will give your kids some great starter ideas so you can get going quickly and easily. It’s also a great springboard to the world of coding should your kid’s interests lead that way. Using the kid friendly drag and drop programming site Scratch, kids can design their own games and use MaKey MaKey as the controller. Should you find the basic keyboard controls limiting (arrow keys plus space and left click) you can use the connector wires to plug into the sockets on the back of the board to access extra keyboard inputs (a range of keyboard letters plus extra mouse click options). Mr 6 made a cat dance across the screen to a bowl of food and then fell about laughing whilst he dumped endless bowls of food onto its head. It may not be highbrow but it is fun early invention and coding practice! Plus Scratch is free to use, you just need to be connected to the internet.

If you’re looking for more MaKey MaKey inspiration check out these amazing musical creations:

The Classic Kit is available for purchase from the Makey Shop for the astonishingly reasonable price of US$49.95 and MaKey MaKey Go is available for the even more wallet friendly price of US$24.95. Big ups to the original creators for making an inventing product for kids that’s reasonably priced, so many others are horrendously expensive. I note they have now introduced the Inventor Booster Kit which includes conductive fabric and tape amongst other things. Let the fun begin!

Disclaimer: Flying Start Kids was provided with one MaKey MaKey Go kit for review, the opinions and thoughts expressed here are my own.

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